The Rural Alberta Advantage

This Q&A is part of a series with Paper Bag Records artists to celebrate the label’s 10th anniversary. Interview by April Robinson

Don’t let their name or the fact they play percussive folk songs about hometowns and heartbreak fool you into thinking that The Rural Alberta Advantage haven’t been making a ruckus. As one-time holders of the “Canada’s best unsigned band” title to to sold-out tours, Juno noms, and international critical acclaim, you could say they’re almost making a spectacle of themselves. After releasing debut LP Hometowns in 2009 then the sophomore Departing in 2011, the band is now working on their newest album after a full summer of performances, including gigs at the Calgary Folk Festival and The Tragically Hip’s annual Canada Day Weekend concert.

Amy Cole, no stranger to exploring the concept of  home, answers a few of our questions about her band’s comfy musical co-habitation with Toronto label, Paper Bag Records.


What one word went through your head when you first met Paper Bag Records founder, Trevor Larocque?
INTIMIDATING!  We’d heard about Trevor and PBR for a long time through our drummer, Paul and his band, Woodhands. We were always hoping we’d make a good impression on him and he’d want to sign us, too, but it actually took a couple years for that to happen. So for the longest time, we were very nervous around him. It’s funny to think about now, because we’re all so close and it feels like we’ve been with him forever.

What was the deciding factor in signing your name with PBR?
Again, we’d heard a bunch of good things from Paul, so he was pro-PBR from the get-go. We’d had some modest success with releasing our first record, Hometowns by ourselves, and we’d been reluctant to sign with other labels that had approached us in the past. But once we learned from Trevor how excited he was about the record and what they would do to give us a ‘proper’ release for Hometowns in Canada, we decided to go for it.

Describe the PBR culture in one sentence.
It’s just like your family, except in this case, every person in your family happens to be really, really cool.

Favorite PBR artist?
This is a very hard question to answer. There’s like a six-way tie in my head! I don’t think I can choose just one. Sorry!

Favorite PBR song?
Another tough one! I’m going with a tie between Deadly Snakes’ Gore Veil and Woodhands’ Dancer.

Favorite PBR album?
Argh! Okay, I’m going with Austra‘s Feel It Break at the moment, but I have enjoyed so many of these records. I should mention that Trevor is very generous in sharing the music on his label amongst all of his artists so I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many of the records PBR has released in the last couple years. In my opinion, they’ve all been stellar, and we consider ourselves lucky to be in such great company.

What’s the craziest/most fun thing PBR has pitched you?
Hmmm. Probably the upcoming parties for PBR10. We can’t wait to play (and I can’t wait to attend the two nights we aren’t playing)! I’ll also say that we’ve had a lot of fun recording a certain cover song for another thing Trev has in the works. On paper I suspect it doesn’t seem that a band like us could make a cover of this particular song work, but I’m super proud of what we’ve come up with.

What’s the sweetest/most endearing/warm and fuzzy thing PBR has done for you?
Warm and fuzzy = easy. Trevor decided that his son Felix’s very first concert would be our show opening for the Tragically Hip, Death Cab for Cutie, and New Pornographers in June. The sight of Trev carrying around this infant wearing enormous headphones was pretty much the cutest thing in the world. We also had fun celebrating our Juno nominations this year (along with Cuff the Duke) with a fancy-schmancy celebration lunch courtesy of Trev. Our band has always prided ourselves on being really hard workers and we kept our noses to the grindstone for years, and it was awesome for Trevor to help us take a moment to kind of reflect and celebrate how far we’ve come.

What’s your career highlight since signing with PBR?
I’m happy to say that we’ve had many! We’ve worked hard, but we’ve also been really, really lucky. I’d say that playing Coachella in 2011 was a definite highlight for me, as well as the Juno Awards nominations this year.

If this were a PBR high school yearbook, what would you write?
I know people like to write “Don’t ever change!” on yearbooks, but seeing how far Trev and PBR have come even since we signed is so inspiring, I’d probably write, “Keep on changing, evolving and exceeding your expectations! P.S. Don’t stop following your dreams. XOXO.”  (So cheesy. That’s what yearbook quotes are all about, right?)


The Rural Alberta Advantage will play Friday, September 28th at Paper Bag Record’s 3-night PBR10 Anniversary Concert Series at Toronto’s The Great Hall. Look for more Q&A’s from PBR artists to hit in the coming weeks.
Oh — in case you missed it, You Say Party’s PBR10 Q&A is here and PS I Love You’s is over here.

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